Oh ye of little faith ~ Doubting Thomasina faces immense changes

Oh ye of little faith ~ Doubting Thomasina faces immense changes.

My favourite of Jesus’s main men was Thomas. He and I have a lot in common.

Doubt, for one thing.

I have shockingly little faith, really. I can’t get on board this “The Universe will provide” kind of stuff. The Universe is probably sublimely unaware of my sorry existence. More than that, the concept that somehow the very fabric of space and time will shift to bring me what I want is outrageous. As for God, well, I have trouble accepting that he/she loves me, let alone cares what happens to me. That’s my problem, probably not God’s. It’s lack of self-worth, in all likelihood, and a very clear understanding of just how very small I am in the grand scheme of things.

Thomas and I need evidence. He needed to touch Jesus to accept he was truly there, alive and yet pierced with wounds that were mortal and dreadful. I need to feel as though, small cog in a grand old Galaxy as I am, I actually have a place, that I am not one of those odd bits of metal that you find,and stick in a drawer somewhere because you daren’t throw it away in case it is something crucial for something. It’s a mark of this aspect of my psyche that means I collect these stray bits and pieces, and store them just in case. My plan is one day to gather them and turn them into a work of art.

So I live in a state of constant existential conflict: the need to believe I have a place, at odds with the fear that I probably do not.

I think Thomas and I would have been good pals. I’d like to find a icon of him, or a statue, to position at the entrance to my new house.

Oh sorry, that’s the news. I’m moving. Not till September probably, but after a couple of weeks of uncertainty about whether saying yes to the change was a good idea, it appears that the die is cast. Thunderbirds are GO!

This is not just moving house, which is hellish enough. The distance from our current location means my teaching job will end. I’m ambivalent about my job anyway, for various reasons, but generally the actual teaching and tour-guiding I enjoyed a lot. It gave me a slightly greater sense of self-worth and a small addition to the family finances. And after the massively reduced summer school in August, there will be no more work till March 2013.

After almost six years working as a scientist in a secular job, my husband is returning to full-time ministry and we as a family are returning to living in a rectory. When we left our last one, in October 2006, I had found a measure of peace with the pressures and aggravations of that life. If you have read my novel Away With The Fairies, the scenes from Isobel and Mickey’s rectory life are no exaggerations. I chose not to include any of the more extreme scenarios we experienced of being spied upon, pestered, phoned in the middle of the night, or any of the breathtaking liberties people took assuming that we were public property and our home equally public. It had taken me since my husband was first ordained in 1994 to learn to cope with it. Ironic that just at that point, the diocese we lived in made decisions that made it impossible conscience-wise for my husband to continue working there and we left. We carved out a new life, here on the coast, and despite the fears of being both homeless and penniless, we achieved a great deal. House, jobs, and a totally new way of life for me.

I’m six years older now. Six years older. That makes it that bit harder for me to find employment. I’m flexible and adaptable, maybe more so than people half my age. But my age is something that goes against me because of simple, unconscious prejudice. I don’t want to do nothing outside the home. I NEED to work. Not merely for the money but for the other benefits of bringing new experience to my life, of meeting other people, of exploring the world outside my window. My travel job will continue, as that is not location dependent, I am thankful for that. But it is intermittent and sporadic and I cannot make any financial decisions based upon it.

During the five and a half years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve found it desperately hard to write. Non fiction has come much more easily than fiction. The room I have as a study is a small, rather cramped room that doubles as a guest room. I cannot look out of the window as I work. The new house is much larger and lighter and I am hoping that my writing mojo will come home properly. It only visits for short spells, like a fickle lover. In all honesty, now would be a wonderful time for the wild magic of a book going viral to occur for me. It would give me some sense of a future for me. The last two months, I have seen exciting growth and a significant rise in sales of my books that gives me hope that I might just make it as a writer. But even successful writers need their day-jobs, for more than just the money.

Now when it comes to belief, I do not believe in anything to do with the law of attraction. It’s a nonsense. My thoughts do not create reality; my wishes and desires do not draw their fulfilment to me. Thinking positively is a good idea, because it makes you look for opportunities and helps you stay cheerful and optimistic, but it does not make things happen. That’s both illogical and egotistical.

Right now, when I try and look into the future, I can’t see anything. Perhaps blind panic is obscuring my inner vision. Perhaps, as the future is not fixed, things are still in motion. Perhaps, and this scares me most, I don’t have a future at all.

That’s where Thomas comes back to comfort me. I’ve stood in this position a good few times, standing on the edge of a dark abyss where nothing is settled or certain, and things could go horribly wrong. I stood there almost six years ago today, when it became clear to us that our position was untenable and we’d have to make a leap of faith into the unknown, and just hope that it would work out.

I’m forty six. I’ve leapt into the unknown more times than many in my life so far. And so far, it has worked out.

Thomas demanded evidence. When I demand evidence, I am directed to look at the past and review it. Each and every time I’ve made that leap, I have survived. In some cases, I have even thrived and made huge strides forwards as a person. I know the next few months are going to be so stressful I’d like to go to sleep and wake up in mid September with it all over bar the shouting. But Thomas tells me that if I cannot believe in the future, I can believe in the past and let that be my guide.

Oh and if you’re a praying kind of person, I’d appreciate a few on my behalf. Thank you.

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15 thoughts on “Oh ye of little faith ~ Doubting Thomasina faces immense changes

  1. Thomas is one I also consider: Christ went as far as noticing him, then responding to him and his doubts. Doubts are not bad things!
    Also, remember that candle? It’s still there, sending prayers with your name on it. X

  2. I went to a Quiet Day in our local Diocesan retreat house recent, entitled “The Creativity of Change”. There we talked about the 3 stages of transition, Letting go, Neutral (otherwise known as the Void), and Entering the New. It sounds to me as if you are in the Void. I certainly feel as if I am in the Void now – and the key is to remain present in this process rather than trying to rush through and out of it. I like this quote: “We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. May you be blessed in this next “leap into the unknown”.

    • Thanks, I feel very much in the Void, or rather staring over the edge of it right now.
      Hope your Void experiences recently become entering the new, soon.

  3. I know exactly how you feel, Viv. You will come through – you know that because you have before – what you don’t know yet is how, and what will happen on the way. That’s very unsettling, but could be stimulating and exciting too. Perhaps best just think of it as collecting material for new novels you can write once you are settled again.Good luck and sending positive thoughts. 🙂

    • Thanks Tricia. I think it does help a little thinking I’ve done it before. And yes to the new material. oddly enough, one of the works in progress I’ve got stuck with is set in a small seaside town and features a language school. I’ve often wondered if the reason I can’t get on with it is because I am still here, and working at the school that inspired the one in the story. So maybe a move out of this place and state will kickstart it again.

  4. I’ve just read this after responding to the dream you shared on my newest post. My sense of that dream was that it was about doubting, no, actually giving up on, the traditional god-image of patriarchy, which is not to say at all that one is giving up on the Great Mystery of life we think of as God. I see these as two possibly quite different things, and for that reason agree with Kate that doubt is not a bad thing; I think it’s a very good thing if it causes you to doubt traditional religious ways that your conscience can no longer live with. In fact, I see it as a moral imperative!! My best to you, brave Viv, in this newest leg of your journey. Jeanie

  5. Wonderful post Viv! Being in the position between certainties almost feels like coming close to drowning sometimes. I’m 55, I understand about the age thing. It’s not so easy starting over until I realized that I’m not starting over but am continueing in a new direction. I just don’t always know ahead of time which direction that is.
    When I was 37 I became a widow. My husband of 18 years killed himself. My boys were still not grown and I found myself in a ‘what do I do now?’ place that scared me to my soul. Fear is one of those things that make us cautious. I can be in this sense a very good thing. My life took a huge turn! I look back now and wonder at all of the differences that have occurred. We never realise how well we are doing or how strong we are until we have finished the journey. But then we never really finish it, do we?
    You have my prayers and my faith that this well within your strength to do.

    • That’s a powerful story, and a heartbreaking one. I cannot imagine how you must have felt to lose him like that. You are right, we do not know how far we have come till the journey’s ending.
      thank you. xxx

  6. I was just talking to a neighbour today who’s been busily studying Blake. She is an Anglican Priest’s daughter – now in her 60s and believes the God of theologians is not the God of the people. She and I agree that in our world of opposites, how can one have faith with no doubt?

    I’ve been reading, contemplating and attempting to understand the Gospel of St. Thomas. As I go over the material, I have a sense of reading about Jesus who is being presented with a tinge of doubt – true to Thomas’ nature? However, that may be my filters unfairly turned on. In my mini-study, Thomas really puzzles me. Here’s why and I’ll shorten this a bit:

    Jesus says to his disciples, “Compare me to something and tell me what I am like.”
    Simon Peter (“a just messenger”) and Matthew (“a wise philosopher”) answer – then Thomas chimes in: “Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.”

    Jesus said, “I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.”

    Then he took Thomas, withdrew, and said 3 things to him. When Thomas returned, the disciples asked what Jesus said to him.

    Thomas said, “If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.”

    So, Viv, if this is authentically Thomas’ writings, even with that information from Jesus, he still chose doubt. It makes me wonder what need is being served.

    • I have a copy of the Gnostic Gospels and I do find they offer a very powerful insight that the regular scriptures by way of familiarity do not.
      I do like his reply, but like saying I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you!!

  7. This seems to me, this transition that you and your husband are undergoing, to be very rich at every level. All I see are riches that you bring to your new life. This is just my perception, of course , but it seems to me that the ministry – and those who are partnered therein – is a life of service. Not easy, but somehow a calling. The fact that you both have been out of it for years, and that you choose to reenter it, is very powerful, in my opinion. You bring an experience that could not have been gained by staying in the church for the duration and I truly believe our faith is enriched by doubts.

    I could be wrong, but I see your writing becoming freer and freer. It probably would not be appropriate, but I would love a daily blog from the rectory. Honestly, I would be following it with bated breath!!

    All the best,
    Sara

  8. I hear you. The void, eh? Hmm, that chimes. I too struggle with meaning v random coincidence. I don’t know. Nowadays I just breath, one breath at a time – and even that is tough! 🙂

  9. We think so much alike, more so than, er, not. Some folk get the idea that I am only interested in dry/detached science. Not so. I am very much interested in being concious and alive and just what the hell (if anything) that means. I do not have a ‘belief’ in things that requires me to just really, really have faith in them and then I will ‘see’, no, I want to understand this place that I am in, and at the sametime, made of. I know I will never have a final answer, because, well, maybe there really isn’t one. I have no problem with any other human being believing privately whatever the heck they want, why should that bother me?

    …except that they often take ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ as meaning ‘real’ – not so. Not ever so, no matter how strong the conviction. For example, I’m convinced they have found the Higgs particle at CERN, though final proof is yet to come, or… maybe they haven’t, because maybe it isn’t there to find. The point is, it doesn’t matter what I think, as you said Viv, the universe couldn’t care less what i think, or that I am even alive, I make no difference to it… except, that, well, yes I do – because I am that universe made sentient….

    These are difficult concepts to deal with, and answer are NOT easy, but people NEED so much to think that – in some way, it really is how it feels to them, because they are the one who is aware of it; that the universe really is all about them and their wishes and desires.

    Doubt is the greatest gift nature/whatever you want to believe/call it has bestowed on us. We should use it much more often – not to question the beliefs of others, but to question our own. 🙂

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